The Easter getaway nightmare: BA and easyJet cancel 110 flights TODAY

Britons face TRIPLE Easter travel chaos: BA and easyJet cancel 110 flights TODAY sparking huge queues at airports, 23 miles of M20 SHUTS as 3,500 lorries wait at Dover and hundreds of trains are cancelled scuppering UK’s great ‘post-Covid getaway’

Britain’s families heading on an Easter holiday getaway over the coming days face travel misery with more than 100 flights cancelled today and all Southern trains in and out of London Victoria pulled this weekend.

Passengers at airports were again hit by lengthy queues this morning as the aviation regulator warned airlines to set ‘deliverable’ schedules after thousands of UK flights were cancelled in recent days due to staff shortages.

Those travelling to London Gatwick Airport by rail this weekend also face further misery, with no Gatwick Express services while Network Rail carries out engineering works at Victoria. All Southern trains between Victoria and East Croydon have been cancelled – with replacement buses running and passengers urged to use other routes.

And traffic in Kent again came to a halt today due to Channel crossing delays caused by the ongoing suspension of P&O Ferries services. A 23-mile coastbound stretch of the M20 was closed to store thousands of lorries heading for the Port of Dover or Eurotunnel in Folkestone as part of Operation Brock, with 3,500 lorries said to be stuck.

At Manchester Airport and Gatwick today, long lines formed as staff seemed unable to clear them quick enough. Several airlines and airports have been struggling to cope with staff sickness and shortages in recent days. British Airways today cancelled 68 planes to locations including Athens and Prague, while easyJet stopped 42.

It comes on the UK’s busiest weekend of travel since the pandemic began in March 2020, with families leaving and returning at the same time as they make the most of being able to travel abroad without Covid-19 restrictions. 

The scene at Gatwick Aiport earlier this morning showed the chaotic sight of long queues

The scene at Gatwick Aiport earlier this morning showed the chaotic sight of long queues

At Manchester Airport today questions were being asked as to where security staff were

At Manchester Airport today questions were being asked as to where security staff were

Lines of people at Manchester Airport frustrated passengers trying to get away for a break

Lines of people at Manchester Airport frustrated passengers trying to get away for a break

Many frustrated customers and passengers took to social media to vent their queue anger

Many frustrated customers and passengers took to social media to vent their queue anger

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham has said that problems causing long queues at Manchester Airport are likely to continue for two months. The airport’s managing director Karen Smart resigned on Tuesday.

At Manchester Airport today, passenger Alan Wilson questioned if it had all of security closed when he arrived just before 3am. He posted on Twitter: ‘When you arrive at Manchester Airport is ALL of security closed? 

Airlines urged to set ‘deliverable’ schedules after flight cancellations 

Airlines have been urged by the aviation regulator to set ‘deliverable’ schedules after thousands of UK flights were cancelled in recent days due to staff shortages.

Civil Aviation Authority chief executive Richard Moriarty warned that late-notice cancellations and excessive delays are ‘not just distressing for affected consumers but have the potential to impact confidence levels across the industry’.

In a letter to airlines, he acknowledged that many are in the process of recruiting large numbers of staff but ‘it is clear that this has not always happened sufficiently quickly to cope with the increased passenger travel in recent days’.

He wrote: ‘Given the consequences for passengers of cancelled and disrupted journeys, I encourage you to do all you can to ensure that you have the necessary level of appropriately-trained and cleared staff resources in place.’

It is ‘very important’ that airlines are setting schedules ‘on a basis that is deliverable given available staff (including contractors), and has resilience for staff sickness, including from Covid’, Mr Moriarty added.

British Airways and easyJet have recently cancelled a total of more than 100 daily flights. This has been blamed on a combination of coronavirus-related staff sickness and recruitment difficulties.

Mr Moriarty also wrote to airports, calling on them to ‘work closely with airlines’ to ensure ‘disruption is kept to a minimum’. He sought ‘reassurance’ that passengers with reduced mobility ‘continue to receive the assistance that they require’.

Passengers at Manchester, Heathrow and Birmingham Airports have all complained of long queues. The boss of Manchester Airport, which has struggled for several weeks, admitted it does not have enough staff.

Charlie Cornish, chief executive of Manchester Airports Group, said: ‘The simple fact is that we don’t currently have the number of staff we need to provide the level of service that our passengers deserve.

‘Despite our efforts since last autumn, the tight labour market around the airport has meant we have just not been able to hire people quickly enough to establish a full-strength team. Practically, staff shortages mean that we cannot open all the security lanes we need and, at times, this results in longer queues than we want to see.

‘While we still expect most passengers to get through in less than 30-40 minutes, there will be times over the next few months when waiting times will rise to between 60 and 90 minutes.’

The airport’s managing director, Karen Smart, resigned on Tuesday.

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‘Thus letting the queue build up, you’d assume they would try to avoid this with negative press they’d had. It’s not even 3am and they’re allowing queues to form.’ 

Jill Blamire shared an image at Manchester and simply wrote: ‘Chaos already’. 

Meanwhile Chris Campbell said there were problems with the automatic gates at passport control at Gatwick. He wrote online:  ‘1am. After a 4.5 hr delay with EasyJet we are welcomed home with passport control chaos at Gatwick Airport. They’ve decided to to tinker with the e-gates and haven’t got enough manual staff.’ 

Mark Butler also bemoaned the queues at Gatwick. He said: ‘Sort it out Gatwick Airport. Been queuing to get through passport control.  Stuck in terminal haven’t even made it to the gates! It’s 2am!’   

Last week, more than 1,100 flights to and from the UK were cancelled, mostly by British Airways and easyJet partly due to staff shortages. Yesterday, BA axed 74 flights and easyJet cut 52, affecting 15,000 passengers.

Queues were so large at Manchester that some travellers missed flights. Passengers reported it taking several hours to check in, get through security and collect luggage. There have also been bottlenecks at Heathrow and Birmingham airports.

Tourism chiefs were last night finalising emergency plans to avoid travel chaos as holidaymakers brace for one of the busiest weekends this year.

One senior aviation source said ‘it’s all hands on deck’ as bosses scramble to deploy backroom staff to tackle huge queues.

Passenger numbers are expected to ramp up again this weekend as travellers who could not get away last week jet off and the first wave of holidaymakers return.

Figures compiled by flight data experts Cirium show that 6,906 flights carrying up to 1,212,389 travellers will depart from UK airports over the next three days.

A total of 2,471 are scheduled to take off today, 2,134 tomorrow and 2,301 on Sunday.

And the boss of the aviation regulator has written to airlines and airports to express concern at the level of disruption being suffered by passengers.

Civil Aviation Authority chief executive Richard Moriarty wrote: ‘Instances of late notice cancellations and excessive delays at airports are not just distressing for affected consumers but have the potential to impact confidence levels across the industry, at just the point when passengers are returning to flying.’

He went on: ‘We know that you are working hard to recruit these new colleagues, but it is clear that this has not always happened sufficiently quickly to cope with the increased passenger travel in recent days.

‘Given the consequences for passengers of cancelled and disrupted journeys I encourage you to do all you can to ensure that you have the necessary level of appropriately-trained and cleared staff resources in place.’

It is ‘very important’ that airlines are setting schedules ‘on a basis that is deliverable given available staff (including contractors), and has resilience for staff sickness, including from Covid,’ Mr Moriarty added.

Also today, the boss of Manchester Airport’s owner has admitted the airport does not have enough staff.

Charlie Cornish, chief executive of Manchester Airports Group, wrote: ‘The simple fact is that we don’t currently have the number of staff we need to provide the level of service that our passengers deserve.

‘Despite our efforts since last autumn, the tight labour market around the airport has meant we have just not been able to hire people quickly enough to establish a full-strength team.

Drivers warned to expect long delays as 27.6m plan Easter car journeys 

Drivers are being warned to expect long delays next weekend as millions of people embark on an Easter getaway.

The AA estimates that more than 27.6 million car journeys are planned between Good Friday and Easter Monday.

Some 13.6 million are expected on Good Friday alone, leading to fears of tailbacks on popular tourist routes.

AA spokesman Tony Rich said: ‘The Easter holidays look set to give British tourism a much-needed boost as people cut back on overseas travel. With more than 27.6 million trips planned over the bank holiday weekend, we can expect significant congestion across the UK as people flock to coastal resorts and holiday homes.’

An AA survey of 14,000 drivers indicated that 53 per cent will use their car to go on holiday in the UK this year. About 20 per cent will not go on holiday in 2022 due to financial pressures.

Drivers making long-distance trips will be particularly susceptible to high fuel prices.

Latest Government figures show the average price of petrol at UK forecourts on Monday was 161.9p per litre, while diesel cost 176.0p per litre. 

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‘Practically, staff shortages mean that we cannot open all the security lanes we need and, at times, this results in longer queues than we want to see.

‘While we still expect most passengers to get through in less than 30-40 minutes, there will be times over the next few months when waiting times will rise to between 60 and 90 minutes.’

In addition, rail passengers are being warned of disruption over the four-day Easter bank holiday weekend as Network Rail carries out 530 engineering projects costing a total of £83 million.

This includes a closure of the West Coast Main Line between London Euston and Milton Keynes between Good Friday and Easter Monday due to upgrades of the existing line and HS2 work.

Cross-Channel ferries will also be busy with many people heading off on foreign trips or families returning at the end of the two-week Easter school holidays.

Roads in Kent have been hit by long queues in recent days due to a shortage of ferries caused by the suspension of sailings by P&O Ferries after it sacked nearly 800 seafarers without notice.

The operator said it plans to resume operations on the Dover-Calais route next week pending regulatory approval.

Meanwhile drivers are being warned to expect long delays next weekend as millions of people embark on an Easter getaway.

The AA estimates that more than 27.6 million car journeys are planned between Good Friday and Easter Monday.

Some 13.6 million are expected on Good Friday alone, leading to fears of tailbacks on popular tourist routes.

AA spokesman Tony Rich said: ‘The Easter holidays look set to give British tourism a much-needed boost as people cut back on overseas travel.

‘With more than 27.6 million trips planned over the bank holiday weekend, we can expect significant congestion across the UK as people flock to coastal resorts and holiday homes.’

An AA survey of 14,000 drivers indicated that 53 per cent will use their car to go on holiday in the UK this year. About 20 per cent will not go on holiday in 2022 due to financial pressures.

Drivers making long-distance trips will be particularly susceptible to high fuel prices. Latest Government figures show the average price of petrol at UK forecourts on Monday was 161.9p per litre, while diesel cost 176.0p per litre.

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Traffic in Kent came to a grinding halt again today due to Channel crossing delays caused by the ongoing suspension of P&O Ferries services.

A 23-mile coastbound stretch of the M20 was closed from junction eight (Maidstone) to junction 11 (Westenhanger) to store thousands of lorries heading for the Port of Dover or Eurotunnel in Folkestone as part of Operation Brock. It also caused chaos on surrounding roads.

Delays are being driven by the suspension of P&O Ferries sailings after the operator sacked nearly 800 seafarers without notice last month. This is putting more strain on other ferry operators amid increased demand as many families plan trips to the Continent for the Easter holidays.

To make matters worse, rival DFDS said P&O Ferries customers will be unable to transfer their bookings onto its Dover-Calais sailings this weekend because of a lack of capacity.

P&O Ferries’ ships on the Dover-Calais route, which are to be operated by new foreign agency workers, are yet to be declared fit to sail by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

Operation Brock involves using a moveable barrier to create a contraflow system enabling lorries to queue and other traffic to keep moving in both directions.

However, the system has been overwhelmed, with Kent hit by long queues every day since Friday.

The Port of Dover urged passengers to ‘allow plenty of time for their journey’.

P&O Ferries has said it is preparing to resume cross-Channel sailings in the coming days.

A spokesman said: ‘P&O is looking forward to welcoming back vital services and we expect to have two of our vessels ready to sail on the Dover-Calais route by next week, subject to regulatory sign-off [by the MCA], namely both the Pride of Kent and Spirit of Britain between Dover-Calais.’ The MCA said: ‘A reinspection is taking place at P&O Ferries request on the European Causeway which was detained on 25 March.

‘All inspections have to satisfy the Maritime and Coastguard Agency that the ferries fulfil the requirement of the Port State Control regime and are safe to put to sea.

‘There are no further inspections of P&O Ferries at the moment but we will reinspect at the appropriate time.’

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Traffic in Kent has come to a grinding halt due to Channel crossing delays caused by the ongoing suspension of P&O Ferries services.

A 23-mile coastbound stretch of the M20 was closed from junction eight (Maidstone) to junction 11 (Westenhanger) to store thousands of lorries heading for the Port of Dover or Eurotunnel in Folkestone as part of Operation Brock.

It also caused chaos on surrounding roads. Delays are being driven by the suspension of P&O Ferries sailings after the operator sacked nearly 800 seafarers without notice last month.

This is putting more strain on other ferry operators amid increased demand as many families plan trips to the Continent for the Easter holidays.

To make matters worse, rival DFDS said P&O Ferries customers will be unable to transfer their bookings onto its Dover-Calais sailings this weekend because of a lack of capacity.

British Ports Association chief executive Richard Ballantyne told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning the situation at Dover with lorries was reaching breaking point.

He said: ‘We’ve seen a lot of queues and the traffic management measures introduced which actually helps keep the town of Dover free-flowing, so local businesses and residents can carry out their normal duties. 

‘But these measures obviously mean that particularly lorry drivers are queued back onto the M20, outside the port through Kent, which is obviously not a great situation for them to be in but it is introduced to avoid any particular congestion in the town of Dover itself.  

Dover District Council has said it is prepared to declare a major incident, and East Kent Highways said there were about 4,500 lorries parked up along the M20 and other roads – normally it has capacity for about 2,000.

Mr Ballantyne added: ‘What we’ve seen is that capacity taken out of the short straits. The current operators and Eurotunnel etc are speaking to their customers, trying to encourage certain people to travel later if they don’t have to at the moment. And it’s going to take some days to ease. 

‘But what we saw last weekend following a collision in the port of Dunkerque with one of the ferry operators, we saw that really spike over the weekend and that eased somewhat into this week. But now as we approach another busy East weekend, we’re seeing those queues extend again.’

‘It is a lot to do with the fact that P&O is currently out of service. That’s a big carrier, so you’re taking a lot of capacity out of the short straits, and that’s a fundamental issue really, with a few other factors – we’ve seen some Brexit issues, with IT systems disrupted this week. 

‘We’ve seen Easter holidays begin which always attracts a lot of people who are looking to go on holiday and post a lot of the Covid restrictions. This is one of the first holiday periods when effectively there’s no restrictions on travel, so we’re seeing a lot of people wanting – understandably – to get away, but they’ve been impacted as well as those freight drivers.’

P&O Ferries’ ships on the Dover-Calais route, which are to be operated by new foreign agency workers, are yet to be declared fit to sail by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

Forget the Bank Holiday getaway! Engineering will hit Tube and railways this Easter weekend

Millions of travellers face an Easter Bank Holiday getaway nightmare of disruption and spiralling prices on trains, planes and the roads.

Large swathes of the rail network will close for £83million-worth of engineering works over the busy four-day weekend.

More than 500 signalling and track upgrade projects across the country include the closure of London ‘s Euston and Victoria stations to most services.

It will cause chaos for the thousands of football fans travelling to the FA Cup semi-finals, between Manchester City and Liverpool and Chelsea and Crystal Palace, at Wembley stadium.

Trains into London from the North West and West Midlands will instead stop at Milton Keynes Central, meaning other routes into the capital face being overwhelmed. The FA is urging fans from the North to avoid the railways and use specially laid-on buses or travel before the weekend instead.

All Southern trains between London Victoria and East Croydon have been axed, also causing havoc for air passengers landing at or trying to reach Gatwick Airport. It means passengers on trains diverted via London Bridge face chaos.

London Underground services on the Piccadilly line to Britain’s busiest airport, Heathrow, will be suspended while buses will also replace trains for part of the journey between the capital and Stansted Airport.

London Tube closures on the District, Hammersmith & City, Northern and Docklands Light Railway lines will also make it harder travelling around the capital.

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Operation Brock involves using a moveable barrier to create a contraflow system enabling lorries to queue and other traffic to keep moving in both directions.

However, the system has been overwhelmed, with Kent hit by long queues every day since Friday.

The Port of Dover urged passengers to ‘allow plenty of time for their journey’.

P&O Ferries has said it is preparing to resume cross-Channel sailings in the coming days.

A spokesman said: ‘P&O is looking forward to welcoming back vital services and we expect to have two of our vessels ready to sail on the Dover-Calais route by next week, subject to regulatory sign-off [by the MCA], namely both the Pride of Kent and Spirit of Britain between Dover-Calais.’

The MCA said: ‘A reinspection is taking place at P&O Ferries request on the European Causeway which was detained on 25 March.

‘All inspections have to satisfy the Maritime and Coastguard Agency that the ferries fulfil the requirement of the Port State Control regime and are safe to put to sea.

‘There are no further inspections of P&O Ferries at the moment but we will reinspect at the appropriate time.’

The Easter holidays are expected to be the busiest period for international travel since the start of the pandemic after the Government dropped all Covid border restrictions last month.

Those escaping to the Continent by rail yesterday morning were also hit by delays after a train broke down in the Channel Tunnel. Eurotunnel Le Shuttle rail services from Folkestone in Kent to Calais in France were delayed by three hours.

There were reports of two-hour waits at the Port of Dover for cars and lorries looking to use cross-Channel ferries, but a port spokesman said tailbacks had been cleared by yesterday afternoon.

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: ‘These cancellations will cause huge frustration. There is a responsibility on airlines to ensure they have the capacity to run all of the flights they schedule.’

Paul Charles, head of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: ‘This is a staggering level of flight cancellations caused by a cocktail of not having enough staff in place and Covid-induced staff shortages. It’s a nightmare situation.’

An easyJet spokesman said the firm was experiencing ‘higher-than-usual levels of employee sickness and so we have taken the action to cancel some flights in advance’.

BA said: ‘While the vast majority of our flights continue to operate as planned, as a precaution we’ve slightly reduced our schedule between now and the end of May.’

A Manchester airport spokesman said passengers’ experiences ‘have fallen below the standard we aim to provide’, adding: ‘We are doing all we can to recruit the staff we need to meet demand, but this is taking time due to the lengthy vetting and training processes.’

Also today, new figures show the UK’s tourism industry is beginning to recover after being hit hard by travel restrictions introduced during the coronavirus pandemic.

Trade association UKinbound, which represents more than 300 businesses dealing with tourists visiting the UK, said 39 per cent of its members are reporting that international bookings and visitor numbers for between April and June are expected to be the same or higher than pre-pandemic.

The US market is recovering the strongest, with one in three businesses seeing growth in that area.

But some 61 per cent of firms expect demand to be lower, indicating how much of the sector is continuing to struggle.

UKinbound chief executive Joss Croft said: ‘It’s fantastic to see international travellers returning to the UK and we’re delighted to see the strongest growth from our number one market, the USA.

‘The ending of all UK travel restrictions has given international consumers the confidence to begin travelling here again.

‘Compared with 2020 and 2021, business is booming, but we’re significantly lagging behind 2019 prosperity and our competitors.’  

Lorries queued in Operation Brock on the M20 near Ashford in Kent as freight delays continue at the Port of Dover

Lorries queued in Operation Brock on the M20 near Ashford in Kent as freight delays continue at the Port of Dover

P&O ferry services remain suspended after the company sacked 800 workers without notice

P&O ferry services remain suspended after the company sacked 800 workers without notice

There are thought to be around 3,500 lorries stuck in road hell parked waiting to leave Kent

There are thought to be around 3,500 lorries stuck in road hell parked waiting to leave Kent

Gatwick Airport had problems at it yesterday morning and has suffered lines most of the week

Gatwick Airport had problems at it yesterday morning and has suffered lines most of the week

Passengers have been forced to line up to wait to get through gates to get to their flights

Passengers have been forced to line up to wait to get through gates to get to their flights

Some passengers have been left infuriated by the huge queues and lack of airport staff

Some passengers have been left infuriated by the huge queues and lack of airport staff